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10 ideas to make your website more persuasive

Review your persuasion approaches to increase conversion

Websites that are effective in conversion often share common approaches to persuasion.

I'm often on the look out for simple, practical persuasive ideas so I can include them in workshop or conference talks. This post summarises 10 tried and tested approaches I've seen grouped under key areas of persuasion for websites. I hope you find them useful!

Page headlines

1. Ask a question

Are you writing statement-based headlines? If so, try turning some of them into questions. Question-based headlines are more attention grabbing.

Questions entice us to find out more. In a world where text scanning, rather than reading, is the norm, questions force us to sit up and pay attention:

“Do you want to engage your audience?” rather than “Engage your audience”.

2. Create a problem

Once you’ve identified your audience, give them a familiar problem to solve. Problem-based headlines that the audience can relate to focus the brain on action more than solution-based ones. But the problem needs to be one your target audience can identify with: “Are you failing to engage your best customers?” rather than “Do you want to engage your audience?”

Social proof

3. Can you use testimonials en mass?

Are you using testimonials? If not, you probably should. Quotes and statements from satisfied customers can be great for conveying how good a website, product or service is. But these are cynical times. Everyone has at least one satisfied customer they can quote, so persuade your users with a ‘Wall of Satisfaction’; use at least three testimonials together.

While we know our customers aren’t sheep, prepared to blindly follow, we also know that no one has the time to do in-depth research before every decision they make, so naturally we tend to assume that if others are doing something there must be some value in it. The more people you can quote, the more social proof you have, and the more likely you are to persuade your audience to take a desired action.

4. Make them feel proud

My wife often tells the story of how she went to the last ever Stone Roses gig. If you press her on the matter she confesses that it was OK, but probably not the best concert she’s been to. What makes her share this story more than any other is that it was the final time the Stone Roses played, which she learnt after the event. Only once the dust had settled and the ringing in her ears had subsided did she understand that she had seen something special.

Do you make your customers feel they are taking part in something special by choosing your products or services? A simple way is giving your customers information that confirms they made the right choice.

If your current customers are potentially your best sales force, why not give them the tools to spread the word? Was your event the best attended, the first or the last? Do other well-respected companies, individuals, academic institutions or governments use your product? Select facts that confirm your customer’s wise decision in choosing you and help to ensure that others will get to hear about that choice, too.

Persuasion windows

5. Exploit a thank you?

The website Marketing Sherpa  studied their thank you and confirmation pages. It turned out that 39% of those who had done something, bought something or signed up for a newsletter on the site accepted an offer on the last page of the previous transaction. Where else on your website can you get a 39% conversion rate? Find out more about the Marketing Sherpa study.

6. Thank you alerts and emails

What works for web pages work equally well for thank yous sent via email – don’t waste them.

7. Alarm Clocking?

Most websites don’t have truly compelling reasons for visitors to return regularly. So can you create a reason, and make the user sense that they will regret missing out? Alarm Clocking is when you build something into your site that is so enticing that users will even set their alarm clock to avoid missing out. Check out this Alarm Clocking video to find out more.

Credibility and trust

8. Don’t be shy to use your authority

If you’re an expert or have status, make sure you tell your visitors. This might mean highlighting your organisation’s or individual employees’ qualifications or reputations. Or it could even simply mean stressing how many satisfied customers you’ve had to date.

This might seem like a banal point, but few websites properly communicate their expertise to their visitors. The authority of expertise is one of Cialdini‘s six most important motivating elements of persuasion.

9. The right pictures say more than a 1000 words

Credibility is central to the ability to persuade, and first impressions have a lasting impact when it comes to credibility. As recent studies have indicated, web pages have roughly half a second to convey relevance and authority.

An author photograph on a web page can make a serious difference to how credible the content is perceived to be. A good formal photo can double trustworthiness, but beware because casual photos can actually have a negative effect on credibility. (See the full results of this credibility test [28kb, PDF])

10. Loss is more powerful than gain

Time and again studies have proved that loss is a more powerful motivator than gain. Yet how often do we tell site visitors what they would lose if they don’t buy your product? How often do we convey what they will miss out on if they don’t sign up to our newsletter, or register for our site? It might seem like splitting hairs, but just try rewriting that copy and see what effect it has.

Bonus tip: What not to do?

11. Avoid trade-offs

One of the key scenarios for the opening of a Persuasion Window is at the point when a website visitor has been refused something. For example, if a website has areas restricted to members or subscribers only, a visitor who is not signed up will be refused access when clicking on some links. At this point, offering them alternative solutions to getting access is very powerful.

But don’t blow it – a common way of closing these Persuasion Windows is to offer what’s called a trade-off. A trade-off is when we ask the potential customer to choose between two versions of the same product, for example between two cars – one with an MP3 player and one without. The potential customer is faced with a dilemma: are the extra features worth the money?

Here, a trade-off can be made – pay less money, get less features. Researchers have concluded that being forced to confront trade-offs in making decisions makes people unhappy and indecisive. As a result of this indecision our Persuasion Window closes.

At a Persuasion Window: choice = good, trade-offs = bad.

By richardsedley

Richard Sedley, the Smart Insights Expert commentator on Customer Engagement is Commercial Director at Foviance and Course Director in Social Media for the Chartered Institute of Marketing. Richard's Twitter is @richardsedley.

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